“Two words for you: Bon. Fire,” Leah gleefully expressed, waving her hands in the air with excitement. She’d been stopping by the ranch to visit me—and the horses—almost every day since she’d picked me up on the side of the road. I would’ve tried to push her away, because I had a fear of letting people get close to me, but Leah was like a burst of sunshine on the cloudiest day. I couldn’t keep her away if I wanted to.
“I think bonfire is one word,” I joked, feeding Dottie an apple.
Leah rolled her eyes. “Don’t be a smart-ass, Hazel. Two words, one word—it doesn’t matter. There’s the annual bonfire happening this weekend at the lakefront, and you need to be there with me.”
“Are there going to be a lot of people?”
“Tons of people!”
“Partying and dancing?”
“So much partying and dancing!”
“And you said a ton of people, right?”
She grinned wider, as if she were going to explode from the excitement of it all. “Yes, yes! Pretty much everyone in town goes to the summer bonfire—one word, not two.”
I laughed and shook my head back and forth. “Then go ahead and count me out.”
Her mouth dropped open. “What? No way. You have to come, Hazel. It will be so much fun.”
“I’m not really a big people person, so being around all those people seems somewhat like a nightmare to me. The only kind of people I really like hanging out with are fictional and live within the pages of a book.”
Leah rolled her eyes and began brushing Dottie. “You’re being crazy. There will be boys there. Hot, hot boys who are tan and buff and delicious. Oh, Haze, you have to come! You just have to do it. Think about it—bathing suits, drinks, and great music all night.”
I knew Leah was new to what it meant to be my friend, so I’d give her the benefit of the doubt for misunderstanding everything about me, but the last thing I wanted to do was hang out with strangers in bathing suits.
Leah must’ve seen the resistance in my stare. “Come on, Hazel. You work so hard at the ranch, and you never really give yourself any days off. You think I don’t see you working on your days off? You’re a youthful workaholic, which is an oxymoron if I ever did hear one. So let your hair down and come to the bonfire with me.”
“I don’t know, Leah . . .”
She sighed and tossed her hands up in defeat. “Fine, fine. It’s just too bad. The Wreckage is performing, and I figured you’d like to see them.”
I straightened up a little. “Ian and the boys are performing?”
“Yeah. They’ve been the performers for the past few years. It’s tradition.” She gave me a knowing grin. “Wouldn’t you like to see Ian perform in front of a crowd? I mean, I know he performed for you at your party, but seeing him in front of a bigger crowd just makes him larger than life.”
“You mean wouldn’t I like to see the whole band? Not just Ian.”
“Well, the way your cheeks turn bright red when I mention him gives me the feeling you care more about him than my brother and the other two.” She arched an eyebrow and leaned in toward me. “So is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“Do you have a crush on Ian?”
“What? What? No! No way! A crush on Ian? On Ian Parker? No way.” Oh my gosh, every inch of my body was on fire, as I sounded so far from convincing when it came to my feelings for Ian. I couldn’t count the number of times I’d caught myself daydreaming about his eyes, his lips, his smile, his dic—“We’re just roommates,” I pushed out, wanting to fan my face from embarrassment.
She wiggled her eyebrows. “A roommate with benefits is probably something you’re interested in, huh?”
“No, Leah, not at all,” I lied like the freaking liar I was in that moment. “Besides, even if I did have feelings for Ian—which I don’t—he’s so far out of my league I couldn’t even imagine him ever giving me a chance.”
“I’m sorry, but are you stuck on stupid?”
“What do you mean?”
“For a smart girl who knows that bonfire isn’t two words, you sure are stupid, Hazel. Ian is crazy about you.”
“I see him all the time checking you out around the ranch, and when you aren’t at their band rehearsals, he goes on and on about you as if you’re every star in the sky. He’s obsessed with you.”
I laughed. “He’s not. Trust me, if Ian was obsessed with me, I’d know.”
“Really? So you think a man who spoons you every single night and builds you a she-shed isn’t into you? I mean, I have a boyfriend and can hardly get a good-morning text, and you’re getting whole sheds built in your honor! He’s, like, in love with you!” she exclaimed.
“Shut it, Leah; he’s not.” But he had built me a she-shed. Did that mean something more than just a roommate being nice? Did Ian . . . ?
No way did he like me. I wasn’t his type. I’d seen his type. The tall, curvy girls who always smelled like expensive perfume. I wasn’t the kind of girl who caught Ian’s attention. I was more the girl who hid in the shadows, not the limelight, and Ian dated limelight girls.